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  1. #1
    Dennis Lapierre
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    Province launches review of animal health policy

    In case you haven't seen it, the following is a press release from the Province. What do you think? Did you respond to the survey?

    NEWS RELEASE: For Immediate Release2010AGRI0003-001469Nov. 23, 2010

    Ministry of Agriculture PROVINCE LAUNCHES REVIEW OF ANIMAL HEALTH POLICY VICTORIA -


    British Columbians are invited to participate in a review of the province's
    animal health policy and legislation during a 60-day web-based consultation,
    announced Agriculture Minister Ben Stewart today. The deadline to provide
    feedback is January 23, 2011. "We're seeking the public's view on animal
    health issues and asking for input from those whose work is affected by
    animal health issues," said Stewart. "Animal health is important to all
    British Columbians. It's not only an important issue for farmers, ranchers,
    and food processors, but it can also impact human health when diseases are
    passed from animals to people." Animal health management generally involves
    two broad sets of activities: disease prevention and outbreak management and
    control. Managing animal health is important for the ongoing success of
    animal farming and ranching in B.C. The agriculture industry, veterinarians,
    and others all play important front-line roles in animal health management.
    The province has an important role in supporting successful animal disease
    prevention by having the authority to quickly act to control disease
    outbreaks. "It's essential that B.C.'s animal health management system is
    responsive and that it safeguards both animal and human health, and the
    economic well-being of farmers and ranchers," said Stewart. "I'm really
    encouraging members of the general public and anyone with an interest in
    animal health to take part in this review." The Ministry of Agriculture is
    reviewing the existing animal health legislation and policy, focussing
    primarily on the Animal Disease Control Act and related legislation,
    regulation, and policy. The Animal Disease Control Act is B.C.'s central
    animal health statute, and is over 50 years old. The goal of the review is
    to develop a robust framework for the management of animal health in British
    Columbia. For more information on the animal health policy review or to
    participate in the consultation, please visit:
    http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/ahb. -30- Contact: Patrick VertPublic Affairs
    Officer250 387-1693 For more information on government services or to
    subscribe to the Province's news feeds using RSS, visit the Province's
    website at www.gov.bc.ca.

  2. #2
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    Perhaps I am just 'way put of touch here but I need some help with this issue.
    Who can object to a review of "animal health" regulation, especially when the regulation is "over 50 years old"? So the issue is about understanding what is happening and why and possibly providing informed comment from a personal point of view.

    So what is it about?

    We are still facing the issue of on-going financial support for BCAC. That discussion brought up a large number of very intriguing points that seem to be relevant to this discussion since somehow this current discussion has also morphed into a discussion about farm registration and the many ways that can be used both for and against us as small, diversified farms.

    What has farm registration to do with animal health? Well, in the absence of information we can speculate the question is the same as all the other issues: we will be asked to take some course or other to get some certificate that shows we know chickens need feed, for instance.

    I recently ran across the third initiative to register farms (fourth, if you count the meat issue). The public health side of each health region is supporting so-called “food security” forums with the Ministries of Agriculture and of Health Services where farmers will participate in workshops to earn MarketSafe or FoodSafe certification in order to be eligible to be listed as an “approved source” of local food.

    Part of me sees some value in this as all these piled up certificates are apparently seen as necessary to instil confidence as local purchasers venture out of supermarket aisles to the farm gate.

    Another part of me wonders what is going on? Haven’t we already established beyond all doubt the sicknesses come from factories rather than from farms? Are we farmers not the established professionals in food safety?

    The discussion about BCAC funding brought out the point that of BC’s 23,000 farms only 14,000 are represented at the BCAC table through either community representation or some commodity group (BCAC press release, March 2010).
    It would be helpful to know the population Dennis’ seat serves as presumably the remainder of the 14,000 total would all be commodity farms. This is important because all the others (23,000 total less some portion of 14,000) would then be diversified family farms; the same type of farm that has fed civilisation for 60,000 years and the only type of farm with any hope of sustainability in the real, Brundtland Commission sense.

    Diversified farms are the front line of food security. We face our customers every day. Our customers are our neighbours and they buy their food from us because they trust us. If we were to make just one child sick we would be out of business forever. Nobody knows this better than Maple Leaf Foods who, after sickening thousands of people, now speak lovingly of “your butcher at Maple Leaf”. Don’t they wish they had the public confidence we have worked so hard for. Is there even a tiny chance we would risk that confidence for anything?

    It is really informative to see in the discussion paper the four points listed as goals for the animal health consultation process are the same four goals used for the meat regulation process.

    At the Ministry of Agriculture website (http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/ahc/ahb/) is posted a consultation paper (http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/ahc/ahb/ani...licy_in_BC.pdf). This paper makes it clear many of us are getting away with something! Traceability of livestock must be improved and the only way to do that is to license us all and then threaten to pull the license if we don’t keep adequate records.

    So, very clearly all these different “certification” initiatives really are serving the same purpose. They really are all the same thing and it has nothing to do with food security! The goals of each say we must “Strengthen the confidence of interprovincial and international trading partners”. (quote from the discussion paper).

    This is sure tiring!!!

    So how do we deal with this? There is no question the likes of Maple Leaf Foods need to improve international confidences. But what has it to do with diversified family farms? Surely there must be some way to differentiate between farms who produce for local markets (and REALLY support food security) and those who market to international brokers.

    The recent passing of so-called safe food legislation in the US might possibly shed some light on this problem. Their simple solution was to exempt farms with less than $500,000 in gross annual sales.

    If we did the same thing here we would save a huge amount of bureaucracy, licensing, paperwork, etc. for farms that have no intention of ever reaching an international or even inter-provincial market and we would really be supporting food security.
    Let’s keep it simple. Exempt us!

  3. #3
    Dennis Lapierre
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    Thanks for you comments, Bill. I share your concerns.

    On the matter of registration and licensing, I find the language around that to be a bit unclear. I'll be asking, just as I did in the survey response, to whom is the licensing is meant to apply. The documentation suggests livestock dealers, handlers, abbatoirs, sale yards, auction houses, things like that. Not farms.

    Registration does not mean licensing, to me, but I'll be seeking clarification on that.

    On the matter of who I represent on the BCAC. I represent the membership of the FARM Community Council and the COABC. I don't know exactly what the size of those memberships are. I do not represent people or groups who are not members of those organizations, though I endeavor to carry forward such sentiments as I am able to glean from information mediums such as this Network and other ways in which I manage to learn what the sector I essentially belong to feels.

    On the matter of having to comply with international standards and trade needs, what I believe has emerged as a result of the buy local movement and other similar pressures including a serious acknowledgement of value-chain approaches (which suits small producers) is a realization that regulations need to respect both a domestic standard and the international trade standard that have been imposed on us small producers.

    There are too many small producers in BC who want to and probably will only ever be able to cater to local markets for it to be otherwise. The small size of many farms, the cost of farmland, the fact that for many, farming is an augment to other income sources means this picture is not likely to change any time soon. Small farms aren't going to be gobbled up by big operators like they might in other provinces. Instead, I see the existing small farms continuing to cycle into the hands of those who can afford to farm as us old guys ultimately cycle out.

    I have no problem with registering myself as a meat producer for food safety reasons if what that means is that it allows me better/easier/less imposed-on access to the local/domestic market I seek to cater to.

  4. #4
    Dennis Lapierre
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    Animal Health legislation in Alberta

    For those who may be interested, here is a link to the information on animal health in Alberta. In these regulations are listed "recordable animals" and the obligation to obtain premises ID. http://www.qp.alberta.ca/574.cfm?pag...=9780779736348

    Additionally, here is a site that relates specifically to sheep. http://www.ablamb.ca/legislation/legislation.html

  5. #5
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    Barbara Johnstone Grimmer, P. Ag.
    President, BC Sheep Federation
    2310 Grimmer Road
    Pender Island, B. C. V0N 2M1

    Animal Health Consultation
    BC Ministry of Agriculture
    PO Box 9303 Stn Prov Govt.
    Victoria, B. C. V8W 9N1

    Fax: 250-387-2410

    Re: Animal Health Consultation – Industry Submission by the BC Sheep Federation

    The BC Sheep Federation (BCSF) represents sheep producers in BC. Our membership includes the BC Purebred Sheep Breeders Association and various regional sheep producer associations. Sheep are produced throughout the province, primarily as part of mixed farms or small farms. There are a few larger commercial flocks. Sheep producers are aware of the fallout from animal disease outbreaks, notably from BSE in cattle in 2003 which resulted in dramatically reduced prices for sheep and lambs, and the more recent trace-back from a scrapie outbreak in Alberta to three BC flocks, which were subsequently found to be free of scrapie. Good preventative measures by government and industry, good extension services to provide up to date information and education to producers, and an efficient and effective traceability system are of interest to sheep producers to minimize the impact of a serious disease outbreak.
    BCSF is a member of the Canadian Sheep Federation, an organization that is committed to traceability for the Canadian sheep flock by 2012 through mandatory radio frequency identification tags and a traceability system that will trace individual sheep movements through the supply chain and other movements off the farm (breeding stock sales, fairs and exhibitions, grazing away from the home farm). This traceability and identification system is intended to aid in the rapid identification of exposed sheep in the event of a serious disease outbreak, thus minimizing the unnecessary destruction of animals and also minimizing unnecessary distress to the flock owner and their family. The traceability and identification system is being developed by industry with input from other stakeholders including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
    Until this fall, BC sheep producers had a part time provincial sheep specialist. Recent correspondence with the BC Ministry of Agriculture indicate that a replacement will not be made due to financial hardship by the ministry. Significant extension services and communications by the Ministry to sheep producers have been lacking, leaving the BCSF to take up the slack as much as possible with our quarterly newsletter and annual sheep seminar. Due to privacy laws we do not have access to a complete list of sheep producers in BC and only have a portion of the province's sheep producers as fully paid members in our federation or network of associations. The statement in the Animal Health Consultation paper that “recently both Alberta and Ontario have expanded their focus to include a broad range of animal health diseases” is only possible in those provinces because they both have greater support and expertise with full time extension staff, and they also have a check-off system that ensures communication with all sheep producers. I have met both Sue Hosford, Alberta Sheep Specialist, and Anita O'Brien, Ontario Sheep and Goat Specialist and not only can they share their knowledge and expertise with their producers, but they are also critical in serving as advisers to their respective provincial governments as to the state of the sheep industry. Such expertise would also be valuable in a disease outbreak, in that a trusted government official with an ongoing relationship with producers would be an advantage and critical to a positive outcome.
    Besides a lack of government extension services to sheep producers in BC, we also lack veterinarians with expertise in sheep. The proposed changes to the animal health act and related legislation suggests more surveillance and inspections which would be suited to local veterinarians. However, many sheep producers do not use veterinary services because of the lack of specific sheep knowledge by many veterinarians. As public human and animal health become more important it would also be important for veterinarians to be trained beyond their career goals, usually as small animal vets, so that they would be prepared for an expanded role in their community.
    Premises identification of every location livestock would reside would be important in a full traceability system and should be mandatory. Premises identification is a provincial responsibility and BC has not set up a system yet.
    Communication at each stage is critical. At the prevention stage, the provincial and federal governments should utilize agri-intelligence methods to determine the state of animal disease exposure in BC. This information should be communicated through livestock associations and/or to producers directly. More and more new farmers do not have any experience in agriculture, as our population becomes more urban. Without good extension services and education, and minimal knowledge requirements for raising livestock, there is added risk to accidental disease transmission or breaches to traceability, putting all of our farms at risk.
    It has been stated that we are always at risk, because not all food shipments into Canada are checked. The provincial and federal governments should be taking steps to improve biosecurity and disease control at our own borders. In the case of an outbreak (even if our own farmers have practised good biosecurity on their own farms) management, quarantine, surveillance, control zones and destruction should be well planned in consultation with all stakeholders, especially with producer associations. There should be a livestock industry advisory board established to consult on all potential scenarios and assist in the case of an animal disease outbreak.
    I attended the Foot and Mouth Disease workshop in Abbotsford in 2009, and can appreciate the impact of a disease like that on our province, especially when we are importing from countries with a variety of diseases that could cause immeasurable problems in our province if an outbreak were to occur. I have concerns that the ever-reducing budget of the BC Ministry of Agriculture will not support an expanded animal health system, unless there are immediate measures to provide effective education and extension support services for livestock producers, especially for the sheep sector which has nothing at all in place at this time except for what the BC Sheep Federation can offer its membership.

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